Saturday, 16 December 2017

1914 Boddington B

I used to think that low-gravity Milds didn’t exist until WW I. But I’ve now realised that wasn’t true.

My perceptions were distorted by only having looked at large London breweries, whose Milds were untypically strong. Outside London there were sub-1040º Milds well before the war. Boddington B being a good example.

This was Boddington’s weakest Mild. Looking at it just the recipe, I’d struggle to identify which period it was brewed in. It looks very much like a 1930’s Mild in terms of strength. It could even be 1950’s Mild at the strong end of the spectrum.

It must have been a bit of a shock for provincial Mild drinkers if they visited London. An X Ale in the capital was usually over 5% ABV and there was no weaker alternative, if you wanted to drink Mild. X Ale was the only Mild they brewed.

There’s not a great deal to the grist, just pale malt, flaked maize and sugar. As the type of sugar isn’t specified, I’ve hedged my bets and plumped for No. 2 invert. It really could be anything. Though, as it appears they used the same sugar in all their beers, I doubt it was anything very dark.

Most of Boddington’s beers at this time contained Californian hops, but, for some reason, this has Bohemian hops instead. Which I’ve interpreted as Saaz. Some of the dry hops were Californian, but all the rest were English. I’ve guessed Fuggles, but some or all Goldings would be fine, too.

1914 Boddington B
pale malt 6.50 lb 78.79%
flaked maize 1.25 lb 15.15%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.50 lb 6.06%
Fuggles 140 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.25 oz
Saaz 30 mins 0.25 oz
Cluster dry hops 0.13 oz
Fuggles dry hops 0.13 oz
OG 1037
FG 1010
ABV 3.57
Apparent attenuation 72.97%
IBU 13
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 140 minutes
pitching temp 63º F
Yeast Wyeast 1318 London ale III (Boddingtons)

Friday, 15 December 2017

Warwicks & Richardsons beers in 1910

I’m so happy to have finally got my hands on a Newark brewing record. Especially as it’s from my favourite period: just before WW I.

And also because it matches up nicely with a Warwicks & Richardsons price list I have from 1906. It’s not a complete match, as I haven’t been able to find XXXX, B or Porter. On the other hand, there are a couple of beers that are in the brewing record, but not in the price list: HA (presumably Harvest Ale), XXX B and HB. 

I’ve been rethinking my ideas on Edwardian Mild. It’s clear that, outside London, X Ale and XX Ale were often below 1050º. Warwicks XXXX Ale, which I haven’t found in the brewing record, probably had an OG in the low 1060s. That I haven’t found it implies that it wasn’t brewed very often.

Though XXX Ale, which is around the strength of a London X Ale, was the commonest of the Warwicks Milds. Looking at the price list, I would have guessed that the four Mild Ales were parti-gyled in various combinations. But this wasn’t the case. Mostly they were brewed single-gyle, as were the Pale Ales.

Warwicks & Richardsons beers in 1910
Beer Style OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation lbs hops/ qtr hops lb/brl boil time (hours) Pitch temp max. fermen-tation temp
HA Mild 1036.6 1013.0 3.11 64.39% 3.85 0.56 2 1.5 61.5º F 69º F
X Mild 1043.8 1013.9 3.96 68.35% 4.98 0.86 2 1.5 61.5º F 69.5º F
XX Mild 1048.5 1014.7 4.47 69.71% 4.95 0.95 2 1.5 61.5º F 70º F
XXX Mild 1055.4 1016.3 5.17 70.50% 4.95 1.07 1.5 60º F 70º F
LBB Pale Ale 1042.7 1012.5 3.99 70.78% 3.68 0.62 2 1.5 62º F 70º F
TA Pale Ale 1050.1 1015.5 4.58 69.06% 5.82 1.00 2 1.5 62.5º F 69.5º F
BB Pale Ale 1052.6 1015.8 4.87 70.00% 6.58 1.38 2 1.5 62º F 70º F
XXX B Pale Ale 1049.9 1015.5 4.54 68.89% 6.58 1.31 2 1.5 62º F 70º F
IPA IPA 1059.8 1018.0 5.53 69.91% 7.40 1.84 2 1.5 61º F 70º F
A Strong Ale 1067.9 1022.4 6.01 66.94% 4.93 1.36 2 1.5 60º F 70º F
HB Strong Ale 1062.9 1019.9 5.68 68.28% 4.00 1.00 2 1.5 60º F 70º F
SS Stout 1053.7 1022.2 4.18 58.76% 4.83 1.12 2 1.5 60.5º F 70º F
DS Stout 1069.3 1028.0 5.46 59.60% 4.80 1.46 2 1.5 63º F 70º F
Warwicks & Richardsons brewing record held at the Nottinghamshire Archives, document number DD/NM/8/4/1.

The Strong Ales look weaker than in London. A London KK was around 1075º and a KKK 1085º at this date. Even the stronger (and missing from the log) B would only have been around 1073º.

SS, Single Stout, is only about the strength of  a London Porter. While DS, Double Stout, is well short of the 1080º gravity of Whitbread’s Double Stout in 1910. 

The Pale Ales are the one set that are similar to London strength. Whitbread’s four Pale Ales in 1910 ranged from 1048º to 1063º. Though their IPA was one of the weaker examples at just 1049º Whitbread’s strongest Pale Ale was simply called PA.

Warwicks & Richardsons beers and prices in 1910
Beer Style OG price per barrel price per gravity point
HA Mild 1036.6
X Mild 1043.8 36 0.823
XX Mild 1048.5 42 0.866
XXX Mild 1055.4 48 0.866
LBB Pale Ale 1042.7 36 0.844
TA Pale Ale 1050.1 42 0.838
BB Pale Ale 1052.6 48 0.912
XXX B Pale Ale 1049.9
IPA IPA 1059.8 54 0.903
A Strong Ale 1067.9 60 0.884
HB Strong Ale 1062.9
SS Stout 1053.7 42 0.782
DS Stout 1069.3 48 0.693
Warwicks & Richardsons brewing record held at the Nottinghamshire Archives, document number DD/NM/8/4/1.
Lincolnshire Chronicle - Tuesday 25 December 1906, page 1.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

There's still time

to get one of my classic UK styles (all four of them) books before I get tired of giving a discout. Or just for Christmas.

There's 15% off Strong!, Bitter! and Mild!Plus. And a massive 20% Off Porter!

Everything you ever need to know. Well, not 100% everything. All you need to know about British beer 1800 - 1973. What else matters?

This wouldn't be a book plug without me trying to make you feel guilty about my poor, disadvantaged kids. But the bastards wouldn't fill in my Kindle tax declaration so eff them.

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Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.


I was so excited at finally getting my hands on some Newark brewing records that I initially missed something.

There's a section in the Warwicks brewing records that I've never seen before, titled "Inversion". It might sound a bit odd, but once I'd spotted it, I immediately understtod what it was. They were inverting sugar themselves:

The example above is from a Mild Ale and the suagr in question was something called "Glebe".

This next one is from a brew of Double Stout and in this case the sugar was "Trinidad".

The name Trinidad implies that this was cane sugar. I'm not sure why some beers used one type of sugar and others a different one. Especially as both were being inverted.

Obviously, you need the acid to invert the sugar, so that's no surprise. I'm not so sure why the chalk is there.

The Double Stout inversion, despite using only about 25% less sugar, had far less water: 8 barrles as opposed to 18 barrels. Which would have produced a thicker, higher gravity invert. Would it also produce a darker invert? Everything else looks the same: the time, quantity of acid and quantity of chalk.

I've read in brewing text books about brewers making their own invert. But that's a good bit earlier than this. With commercially-made invert sugars readily available, it seems odd that Warwicks were still making it themselves in 1910. Seems like a lot of extra trouble.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1910 Warwicks IPA

Here’s a beer with which I have a very personal connection. And not just because it’s from my hometown.

Warwicks & Richardsons was one of the two large breweries in Newark-on-Trent, the other being Holes. The latter being the first place I worked. And one of the beers I filled into kegs in 1975 was the last Warwicks beer still being brewed: IPA. IPA was Warwicks standard Bitter, the equivalent Holes beer being AK.

Until a few weeks ago I though no brewing records from Newark breweries had survived. Happily, I was wrong. They’ve a few documents from both Holes and Warwicks archived in Nottingham.

British brewers have been pretty inconsistent in their use of the designations Pale Ale and IPA. Much to the annoyance of modern style Nazis. But this really does look like a classic Burton IPA, at least in terms of gravity. The hopping isn’t quite as crazy.

As you would expect from a beer intended to be pretty pale in colour, there are no coloured malts in the grist and a high percentage of non-malt fermentables. It’s one of the ironies of pre-WW I brewing that often the most expensive beers, high-class Pale Ales, contained the smallest percentage of malt. Sugar and flaked maize were used to keep the body and colour as light as possible.

No. 2 invert is my guess. In the record in just specifies it as “Glebe”. It could also be something like No. 1 invert. I just don’t know.

The hops were a mixture of Oregon and English. I don’t know the variety of the English hops. Goldings is just a guess. You could also opt for some, or all, Fuggles. What is noticeable is the totally crazy level of dry hopping. In the original there were 396 lbs of copper hops and 207 lbs of dry hops. That’s a completely insane ratio.

Given the very high level of dry hopping, it wouldn’t surprise me if IPA was still being brewed as a Stock Ale and aged for months before sale.

1910 Warwicks IPA
pale malt 8.25 lb 64.71%
flaked maize 3.00 lb 23.53%
No. 2 invert sugar 1.50 lb 11.76%
Cluster 120 mins 1.25 oz
Goldings 60 mins 1.00 oz
Goldings 30 mins 1.00 oz
Goldings dry hops 2.00 oz
OG 1060
FG 1018
ABV 5.56
Apparent attenuation 70.00%
IBU 48
Mash at 153º F
Sparge at 165º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Dreams coming true

When I first saw this Warwicks & Richardsons price list, I was sure of one thing. I'd never know exactly what all these beers were like. Becasue none of their brewing records had survived. Or so I believed.

Edd Mather recently put me right on that front. That there are some records from the two big Newark breweries, Holes and Warwicks & Richardsons, in Nottingham.

My schoolfirend Henry - who lives in Nottinghamshire - duly trailed over to take some snaps. Including ones of their 1910 brewing book. Just four years after the advert.

I've not completely sucked out all the goodness from the snaps, but I've spotted most of the beers in the ad. A would have confused the hell out of me without knowing for sure that it was a Strong Ale. It would have been my guess, despite it making no sense. A would usually designate a low-gravity beer.

I'm so excited about this. Especially as Henry has a brewery, Cat Asylum. We can bring Warwicks IPA back to Newark. How cool would that be.

Lots more about Warwicks & Richardsons beers to come.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Canterbury Ales

I awake with a headache.  If only the cause was an overindulgence yesterday. A couple of paracetamol would see that off.

We have to queue to get into the breakfast room. It’s mobbed. Probably because it’s Saturday. Luckily, we don’t have to wait too long.

My stomach is playing up. I can barely eat at anything. I force down a slice of bacon and half a fried egg. What is wrong?

The plan is to go to Victoria and get a train to Canterbury East. But first I watch the Rugby League World Cup final. The first time I’ve seen England look stronger than Australia. For at least part of the game. Have the Aussies got worse of England/GB better? A single converted Australian try is the only score.

Victoria is just as I remember it from my London commuting days: totally overrun with people. And it’s the weekend. I dread to think what it’s like during rush hour. We’re aiming for a train at 12:07. We’ve got 20-odd minutes but the queues at both the ticket machines and manned counters are huge. We plump for the counter queue.

Tickets in hand, we’ve just a few minutes to rush to the other side of the station where our train is waiting. We jump on and find seats.

I haven’t brought ant train beers. Not sure my stomach is up to beer at the moment.

I notice the distinctive blocky shape of a Norman keep. “Look Dolores, there’s a castle.”

In tuns out to be Rochester. The town and its castle look impressive from the train. It seems to be a popular destination as our carriage mostly empties. Giving us the chance to swop to seats with rather more legroom.

We pass orchards with row after row of low hedge-like trees. Dolores remarks “Lots of the trees still have apples on them. That’s a bit weird considering they’ve lost all their leaves. I wonder why that is?”

“No idea.”*

I spot the distinctive poles and wires of a hop garden.

“Look, Dolores, a hop garden.”

“Yes, very interesting.” Dolores says unenthusiastically. To be fair to her, it’s not very big. Unlike in Bavaria, where hops stretch as far as the eye can see.

Jumping off the train in Canterbury, I start to take the most direct route to the town centre. Except the road I want to take is designed to deter pedestrians. Nowhere to cross, no pavements and fences at the edge of the road. I guess they don’t want us to go this way.

Instead we have to take a footbridge over the road that leads to a little park, which is separated from the road by the city walls. We walk along the top of the walls a bit, then climb a mound that gives us a good view of the town.

That’s enough dawdling. We head into town. Which is bustling with shoppers. With all the decorations, it looks very Christmassy. Which is exactly what Dolores is after.

“Can we go to a pub?” This is good news. And unusual. Dolores dragging me to a pub. “I need to go to the toilet.” That explains it, then.

I consulted my 2018 Good Beer Guide back in Amsterdam. The best bet in the centre of town seemed to be the Foundry brewpub, which is on a side street off the main drag.

It doesn’t look very open. The front door is closed. Then I notice a note on the door. It says they are open, the door is just shit to keep the cold out.

Inside it’s pretty full. The closed door is doing its job: it’s cosily warm inside.

Order Dolores Gold as the nearest to Bitter, then read what hops are in it: Magnum and Citra. Oh, er. I hope she likes it. Too late to change my mind as the barmaid is already pulling it. Dolores isn’t a fan of what she calls grapefruit beer.

“How’s your beer, Dolores?”

“Fine.” Luckily, she hasn’t noticed the American hops.

“Do you want to try my Porter?”

“Eeugh. That’s horrible.” It is a bit harsh. But it isn’t that bad. Though it’s way too pale – barley darke than a dark Bitter.

It’s getting very crowded. A group partially seats themselves at the empty spaces on our table. I reckon we were lucky to get a seat. We must have arrived just after someone left.

On the way down, Dolores noticed that there were trains going in the other direction to St. Pancras. Getting a train there would save getting the tube from Victoria. So Dolores picked up some timetables in the station and is trying to work out the best route home.

We only stay for the one. Dolores wants to have a proper poke around town before the shops shut.

The town is full of French, Dutch and Germans. I guess they’re over for Christmas shopping.

“Just wait until after Brexit. Then there will just be just us British people her.”

“Have you forgotten that I’m, German? And you’ll be Dutch next year.” She has a point.

Two burly, tattooed are men facing up to each other, hurling insults. And looking close to hurling fists.

“Come ‘round the corner where there’s no camera, you coward.”

A copper turns up and as we scuttle of hurriedly, I remark to Dolores: “Nice of them to lay on some street theatre.”

We potter around a few shops – Marks, Smiths. And pick up a few bits and bobs. We pop into a specialist calendar shop. They must have a seasonal trade. I contemplate getting a tank calendar for Andrew.

“It’s a shame they don’t have a Bob’s Burgers calendar for Lexxie.” I quip. Family joke there.

We head over to the cathedral. I’d told Dolores that it was dead important and impressive. The gate that leads to the cathedral complex is certainly impressive. But you have to pay to pass it.

“Pah! £12.50 to get into the cathedral complex – they’re taking the mick.” Dolores isn’t impressed. We decide to give it a miss.

It’s about time for another pub. Fortunately, there’s one on the little square where the cathedral gateway is. It’s called the Old Buttermarket.

“Oh look, it’s a Nicholson’s pub. They usually have decent beer.”

Dolores’s face lights up as she sees the handpulls: they’ve got London Pride.  No need to ask her what she wants. I go for a Thornbridge Wild Holly.

It, too, is mobbed, but we find a space by the window. A German couple with English friend are sitting next to us. Their conversation turns to Brexit and I automatically start shutting it out. I’m bored shitless of this Brexit shit.

I get another pie, Dolores a steak. I swop my mash for her chips again. It’s almost like we were meant to be a couple.

After a couple of pints, we stumble outside. There’s no-one on the cathedral gate so we wander inside the precinct. We can’t go inside because there’s a service. But I get some impressive snaps of the giant yellow moon over the cathedral roof.

Going back via St. Pancras is definitely a good idea. It’s much quicker. And we finish within walking distance of our hotel’

Though to break the walk we drop by the Euston Flyer on the way back. More London Pride for Dolores, an ESB for me.

There’s no Double IPA left at the Waitrose when we nip in for some hotel beers. Damn. Have to make do with Thornbrige Halcyon at a punt 7.4% ABV. At least I have a pint glass to drink it from. Dolores picked one up in a pub earlier.

* The answer is Brexit. They were short of pickers from Eastern Europe this year.

The Foundry Brew Pub  
White Horse Ln,
Canterbury CT1 2RU.
Tel: +44 1227 455899

The Old Buttermarket
39 Burgate,
Canterbury CT1 2HW.
Tel: +44 1227 462170

The Euston Flyer
83-87 Euston Rd,
Kings Cross,
London NW1 2RA.
Tel: +44 20 7383 0856

Sunday, 10 December 2017

What I drank in London

In my hotel at least. Pleanty of cask stuff rushed over my lips, too. No keg, obviously. I can get that whenever I want.

This isn't everything. I couldn't get the bastard labels of some of the bottles. In the days of returnable bottles, it was a piece of piss to recover labels. A quick soak in hot water and they's often float off of their own accord. German labels are still like that. And a lot of Belgian and Dutch ones. ones from the USA are worst. I can rarely recover any of those.

Though I did manage to get this one:

I even removed it without much damage.

Crafty labels can be pretty bad. The self-adhesive sticker type can mostly be prised off intact, but its a bit labour-intensive. And you have to stick them on something ales as the back remains adhesive.

But I'm sure you don't want to hear about my label travails. I'm really sure you don't.

I drank an eclectic selection, with both trad and mod stuff.

Notice a theme? There's one if you look closely.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Historic Lager Festival update

March 3rd at the Urban Chestnut in St. Louis. That's the basic information.

The full lineup of brewers and beers hasn't been finalised yet, but there are some very impressive names already committed. I can barely contain my excitement. Especially now I know there will be Kulmbacher, a beer I've wanted to try since I first learnt about it.

It's going to be the beer festival of the year. For me, at least. I'm pretty sure nothing like it has ever been staged before. Another dream that's coming true.

More details to come, as I get them.

A very generous offer

on my classic UK styles (all four of them) books is still on. Hurry up before I get mean and raise the prices again.

I've knocked 15% off Strong!, Bitter! and Mild!Plus. And a massive 20% Off Porter!

This is you chance to get these unmissable books for a paltry sum.

Alexei doesn't need vodka money any more. He's switched to gin. So he needs tomic as well.

"When can we go to the off licence, dad?" he says.

"Sorry Lexie, those nasty people on the internet haven't bought enough books. You'll have to drink meths this week. Put in enough tonic and you'll barely notice the difference."

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.

1913 Boddington XXX

This recipe is intended to give you an idea about what Mild was like before the great catastrophe of WW I.

Having first become acquainted with the beers of the big London brewers, I was in for a surprise when I looked into provincial brewers. By the eve of war, they mostly brewed a single Mild in London. But it was a decent strength, somewhere in the low 1050’s. Whereas outside the capital multiple Milds were still being brewed, but many of them were comparatively weak.

XXX was Boddington’s top-of-the-range Mild. But, despite having the designation XXX, it was only about the same strength as a London X Ale. Though that still makes it far more powerful than any Mild sold after WW I. 1917 was a the last year of 1050º Mild Ale.

The grist is fairly simple, as most were at the time. It’s just pale malt, flaked maize and sugar. In the recipe, I have the sugar down as No. 2 invert. In reality I’ve no idea what type it was. The log just records it as sugar. No. 2 invert is a neutral bet. It could have been No. 3, but I doubt it. Even in the 1980’s Boddies Mild wasn’t very dark. It only looked dark in comparison to their straw-coloured Bitter.

The original contained no less than six different hops in the copper and another three as dry hops. One of the copper hops and one of the dry hops were Californian, the rest were English. At least as far as I can tell. The handwriting is pretty scrawly. They all look like grower names, so that’s what I’ve assumed. Using American hops for dry hopping is quite unusual. As they didn’t like the flavour much they were mostly used at the start of the boil.

The attenuation is a bit rubbish. Though it should be borne in mind that the FG I’ve listed was the racking gravity and it was a cask-conditioned beer. The FG by the time it was served would have been lower.

1913 Boddington XXX
pale malt 10.25 lb 87.23%
flaked maize 1.00 lb 8.51%
No. 2 invert sugar 0.50 lb 4.26%
Cluster 90 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 30 mins 0.50 oz
Cluster dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1052
FG 1017
ABV 4.63
Apparent attenuation 67.31%
IBU 21
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 168º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast Wyeast 1318 London ale III (Boddingtons)

Friday, 8 December 2017

Christmas gift ideas reminder

In case you've forgotten, I came up with four wonderful new books this year. Please buy one. For every ten copies sold, Alexei gets a half bottle of vodka. Don't make him stay sober for Christmas.

My award-winning Scotland! Vol. II, the first history of Scottish beer that isn't total crap. With so many historic recipes, there's more than one for every day of the year. And all new, except for some of the recipes, not stuff from the blog.

Another book not just from the blog is a new anthology of historic recipes. Think of it as an expansion pack to The Home Brewer's Guide to Beer. Not just the usual UK Ales, but also continental Lagers, and US Ales.

The next one is just recycled blogposts. Follow me on my travels as I desperately try to flog copies of  Scotland Vol. II. Including such exotic locations as Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Macclesfield.

Finally, my annual Christmas break from words. Just photos of old brewing records, with ones from every deacde from 1804 to 1972. Haven't you always wanted to know how Whitbread Tankardwas brewed in 1972?


We follow the same routine as yesterday. Dolores gets up at 8:45 and makes tea* and we troll downstairs for breakfast at 9:15.

The breakfast room isn’t that busy again. Which is good news. At the Tavistock hotel you regularly have to queue up to get in.

I go for the same grease combination as always. Though with an extra serving of bacon. You can never have too much bacon. Over the other side of the table Dolores is silently disagreeing with her shamefully bacon-free plate.

We’ve a plan for today. Quite a cultural one. Making our first visit to Tate Modern. Dolores noticed that there was an exhibition on about Soviet design. Posters and that short of stuff. I love me a good socialist poster.

In previous years I’ve mostly sat in the pub nursing a pint or two and reading the paper, while Dolores did the museum stuff on her own. Not just because I enjoy sitting in pubs, but also because she wanted to visit exhibitions that weren’t really down my street. Like old shoes. Not into that. But if there’s a chance of seeing pictures of Stalin, count me in.

We plan on taking the tube to Southwark. It’s only when we’re down on the platform at King’s Cross that I realise the Northern Line doesn’t go to Southwark. Damn. My tube knowledge isn’t what it was.

“We’ll have to get off at London Bridge and walk from there.” I tell Dolores. “It’s an interesting walk, anyway.” Especially as it passes the site of the Barclay Perkins brewery. I don’t mention that last bit to Dolores. She’s pig sick of hearing about Barclay Perkins, hence the name of the blog.

It’s all very modern at London Bridge station now. I was here last year for the first time in ages and couldn’t recognise it at all. Is it an improvement? Well, it couldn’t be much worse. It was a pretty crappy station. I always tried to avoid it, if possible.

Borough Market is something else that’s changed quite a bit. There’s a new glass bit on the front that looks a bit out of place. Bigger and posher than I remember it. It’s basically a posh food court now. Dolores hasn’t been here for a decade or two.

“Oh look, Dolores. They’ve got German bread.” Several stalls do in fact.

“Yes and look at the price. Plus it would be stale by the time I got it back home.” Dolores does love her sourdough rye bread. I remember the look of horror on her face when she first saw British bread. She ended up making her own when we lived in Swindon.

“Oh look, Dolores. They’ve got German sausages. Made by German butchers, in Germany.”

“Are you going to say that every time we pass a stall with something German?”


It doesn’t take us long to thread our way through the market. We pop out the other side next to Southwark Cathedral. Dolores fancies taking a look inside. Why not? It is free.

It’s not the biggest of churches. Probably smaller than Newark parish church. But it’s pleasant enough, in a churchy sort of way. A few of the windows have stained glass. The others were probably blown out during the war. Southwark was bombed quite heavily during the war because of all the warehouses. Including the ones where a third of the 1940 hop crop went up in flames.

At the alter end there are what looks like a combination of several school choirs rehearsing. Some Christmas thing, I suppose. But we can’t wait to hear them sing. Lots of other stuff to do. We leave and continue our walk along the river.

“Look there’s a Viking ship.” I say as we approach the Golden Hind. In joke, that. “The ship Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world in. Well, a copy of it.”

“It’s not very big, is it? Where did everyone sleep?” Dolores wonders.

“Could you imagine sailing around the world in that?”

“No. I’m surprised they didn’t all kill each other.”

It’s quite a windy day, which makes walking on the river embankment extra fun. Though we do get a good view of St. Pauls as a reward for our hardiness.

Once inside Tate Modern were a bit puzzled as to where to go next. The main hall is basically a whole load of empty space, with a few swings for the kids. It’s a nice idea having somewhere for children to play, but it does take up an awful lot of space.

“That’s a bit of a waste.” Dolores observes.

We have plenty of time to stare at the wasted space as we wait in the queue to buy tickets. It takes a while. It doesn’t help that only about half of the positions are occupied.

“They’ve a nerve – saying that the price is £13.30, or £11.30 without a donation. Defaulting to you making a donation.” Dolores doesn’t like being forced into things. I think it’s something to do with having grown up in a dictatorship.

“Do you have to say something to avoid donating?”

“Yes. Don’t worry, I will.”

The exhibition is in the Blavatnik Building, the recently added extension. Entering, there are raw concrete pillars that don’t even look finished.

“I thought they stopped building this sort of crap in 1972.” I remark.

“It’s an industrial building isn’t? That’ll be why it looks like that.”

“No, this bit wasn’t part of the power station, it’s brand new.” Dolores looks unimpressed. I don’t blame her. All the bare concrete looks shit. The whole of the interior is the same, giving it the charm of a 1960’s bus station.

Dolores particularly likes the examples of airbrushing. Where a photo starts out with a crowd and ends up with just Stalin standing by himself, like Billy Nomates. Except he was really Billy Deadmates.

Speaking of which, most disturbing is the section entitled Ordinary People. It’s a table covered with photographs of random Soviet citizens who were killed during the Terror. Pull out a draw and you can read of their sad fates. All off them arrested and killed on false charges. Must have been a barrel of laughs living under Stalin. Even if you fitted in and kept your head down you could still end up dead.

At least the posters are bright and (mostly) cheerful.

While I’m waiting for Dolores to emerge from the toilet, I stare out of the window. At first I think the building opposite, with all its glass, is an office. Then I realise it’s flats. I’d mistaken the sleek, modern seating for office furniture. You can right inside some of the living rooms. Not what I’d want at all. It’s pretty crazy to have a glass-walled living room in the centre of London. Asking for trouble.

The Blavatnik looks much better from the outside. An interesting shape, good texture. I hate to say this, but I quite like it. Still think the inside looks like crap.

We passed The Anchor on the way down and I suggest we drop in for a beer.

It’s mobbed. We wander through the various rooms in search of a seat and eventually spot some people about to leave. Dolores quickly nabs the spot and I trundle over to the bar for drinks. It’s a pretty unimpressive choice: Greene King IPA, London Glory, Old Speckled Hen and something called Anchor Bitter.

As there’s no indication on the pump clip as ask the barman: “Which brewery is it from?”

“I don’t know. I’ll ask and come over and tell you.”

When we’re a couple of sips in, the barman comes over and says: “Greene King.” What a surprise.

It seems like everywhere is run by Greene King now. The Friend at Hand, the Museum Tavern and now here.

“It’s getting to be like the days of the Big Six, when most of the pubs were owned by a handful of breweries.” I tell Dolores.

A group of six of seven Swedes are crushed around a small table close to us. They wrap up in preparation for leaving.

“They should barely need coats. Swedish weather is much worse than this.”

“That’s because you’re English. Everyone on the Continent wears appropriate clothing in the winter.”

The beer not being very inspiring, I suggest that we move on to the London Porter. To get there we walk down Park Street.

“Loads of streets in London have changed names. Like this one. It used to be called Deadman’s Place. I can’t understand why they changed it.”

“Really, Ronald?”

“Or Gropecunt Lane. There really did use to be a street called that.”


“It’s where the prostitutes hung out. You have to admit that it’s to the point.”

A couple of people are looking at the Haynau plaque. I take a snap, though I’m pretty sure I already have a picture. I explain to Dolores that he was an Austro-Hungarian general notorious for bloodily suppressing the 1848 revolution. In 1850, he visited the Barclay Perkins brewery, then a big tourist attraction. The draymen recognised him and beat the shit out of him.

“Draymen were usually big, muscular men. And alcoholics, seeing as they drank all day. It was a plum job.”

We pass the last remaining remnant of Barclay Perkins, a pair of 18th-century houses, which used to be occupied by brewers. One still has a fading “Take Courage” sign painted high on a wall. It brings a tear to my eye.

The Market Porter is also mobbed. Not a seat to be had. Though there is one table hidden behind a pillar only occupied by a half-empty pint. When no-one returns after a few minutes, we sit there.

I get myself an Old Ale of some description and a Harvey’s Sussex Best for Dolores. She asked for a nice Bitter and they don’t come much nicer than that.

Pointing at the half-empty glass, Dolores says: “It looks like the same beer you’re drinking.”

“No, it can’t be. Look at the head – it hasn’t changed all the time we’ve been sitting her. It must be Guinness.” Scarily, the head remains exactly the same during the time it takes us to knock back two pints each.

We see the Swedes standing outside. What are they doing? Drinking coffee.

“That’s not very Swedish.” Actually, it is. Swedes drink loads of coffee. But there’s a perfectly good pub here. I sometimes forget that not everyone is as big a pisshead as me.

I noticed a few days ago on the internet that the Parcel Yard had cask Golden Pride. Never had that before. I suggest that we get the Northern Line back to Kings Cross and nip in there for a quick pint. Dolores gives my plan the nod and off we go.

As we’re walking towards the Parcel Yard we notice a crowd of people queueing up. What are they doing? Waiting for their turn to be photographed in front of the sign for platform 9¾. This Harry Potter thing has got totally out of hand.

I’m disappointed when I get to the bar. The Golden Pride is gone. Dolores is happy enough: there’s London Pride.

No point hanging around for more than one. We’ve not eaten in a while and decide to drop in the Euston Flyer on the way back to the hotel for a pie and a pint.

Another crowded pub, but we do manage to find a table for two.

“Do you have 1845?”


“A pint of London Pride and a pint of ESB then.” Damn. They used to sell 1845.

Dolores has fish and chips with her pint. I swop my mash for her chips. See how complementary we are?

We nip in the Waitrose in the Brunswick for some hotel beer. I’m glad to find some crafty stuff as it’s high ABV. I’m not going to drink it for the taste, obviously. It all tastes like muck. Just for all that alcoholy goodness.

The evening passes with telly, beer and some pointless wading through the sewer that is the internet. And holding my nose as I gulp down some crafty filth.

* If you’re thinking this is sexist, I’ll point out that I bring Dolores a cup of tea in bed every weekday morning.

Anchor Bankside
34 Park St,
London SE1 9EF
Tel: +44 20 7407 1577

The Market Porter
9 Stoney St,
London SE1 9AA.
Tel: +44 20 7407 2495

The Parcel Yard
Euston Rd,
Kings Cross,
London N1C 4AH
Tel: +44 20 7713 7258

The Euston Flyer
83-87 Euston Rd,
Kings Cross,
London NW1 2RA.
Tel: +44 20 7383 0856